The Third Circuit adopted an expansive interpretation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) in a pair of recent rulings.
In Leyse v. Bank of America NA, 804 F.3d 316 (3d Cir. 2015) (No. 14-4073), the Third Circuit held that the roommate of the intended recipient of a telemarketer’s call had standing to sue under the TCPA. In that case, the district court dismissed a TCPA action brought by the roommate, ruling that the roommate was an unintended and incidental recipient of the call and, therefore, not a “called party” entitled to bring an action under the statute. The Third Circuit reversed, holding that the TCPA was intended to protect a party from unwanted robocalls and that the Act’s “zone of interests” encompasses more than just the intended recipients of telemarketing calls. Where, as here, the actual recipient occupies the residence being called and is a regular user of the phone line, then such person is entitled to sue under the TCPA regardless of whether he or she was the intended target of the call.
Less than 10 days later, the Third Circuit held that the TCPA could apply to text messages. In Dominguez v. Yahoo, Inc., No. 14-1751 (3d Cir. Oct. 23, 2015), plaintiff brought suit under the TCPA after receiving over 27,000 unsolicited text messages from defendant Yahoo. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Yahoo, ruling that its texting system was not an “automatic telephone dialing system” (or “autodialer”) subject to the TCPA. The Third Circuit reversed. While the court acknowledged that the statute requires an autodialer to use “a random or sequential number generator” to dial numbers (which Yahoo claimed its texting system did not do), the court stated that the interpretation of “autodialer” has changed as telemarketers’ dialing technology has evolved. The court relied on a July 2015 FCC ruling in holding that so long as the equipment in question is part of a system that has the capacity to produce telephone numbers using a random or sequential number generator, then that equipment – even if not presently used for that purpose – is an autodialer under the TCPA.